'Trying to deflect': Simon Bridges slates Jacinda Ardern's business council

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's new Business Advisory Council has been knocked by opposition parties, which are slamming it as an attempt to deflect from damning economic reports. 

National leader Simon Bridges said the Prime Minister's announcement of "yet another working group" will do "nothing to address the uncertainty created by the Government's anti-growth policies".

Ms Ardern made the announcement during a speech delivered to the business community in Auckland on Tuesday. She appears to have gone on the charm offensive following reports of business confidence dropping in New Zealand. 

"The Prime Minister is desperately trying to deflect attention from poor economic indicators with a list of well-meaning objectives without detailing how they'll be achieved," Mr Bridges said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The Prime Minister has put on a brave face in the wake of a woeful economic outlook presented in the latest ANZ economic survey. It says firms' own activity expectations are close to zero, with investment employment intentions also low. 

She announced the creation of a Business Advisory Council chaired by Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon which aims to "build closer relationships between Government and business". 

Ms Ardern told business leaders the new council will "provide a forum for business leaders to advise me and the Government and to join us in taking the lead on some of the important areas of reform the Government is undertaking." 

But Mr Bridges said New Zealand businesses "won't be comforted by today's slogans and slides from the PM - with no clear economic leadership delivering a plan for our economy."

Business confidence hasn't been so low since March 2011, according to the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) quarterly survey of business opinion for June.

On The AM Show on Tuesday, Ms Ardern said there were a number of positive signs in the economy which made low business confidence "a paradox". 

"We have the business confidence numbers, but then there's the economic indicators around consumer spending, debt, the surplus we're delivering, low unemployment, low external debt for the Government - these are all indicators that say things are quite good."


ACT Party leader David Seymour has also voiced concern about Ms Ardern's new business council, accusing the Government of not listening to the private sector, regardless of how many signs of economic slowdown emerge. 

"First there was 'greenwash', now Jacinda has created 'suitwash', hoping a few suits will cover up her hard left agenda," Mr Seymour said. He referred to Ms Ardern's policies that favour environmental protection, such as ending oil and gas exploration. 

Ms Ardern said on Tuesday said that decision would not affect anyone currently working in the oil sector, however.

"If she is prepared to listen to her Business Advisory Council, which of her Government's vandalous policies will she drop?" Mr Seymour asks. 

He singled out some of the Government's policies he believes have damaged business confidence, including the minimum wage increase, the "vandalous" Employment Relations Bill, and the foreign home-buyer ban. 

Ms Ardern says the council will "complement" the work the Government is already doing with the Small Business Council and business and union representative groups through the Tripartite Forum, which was announced by Ms Ardern in May last year. 

She said the new council work will focus on "macro level economic strategy and active leadership on our economic agenda to build a more productive, inclusive and sustainable economy."

Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope has welcomed the new business council, agreeing with Ms Ardern that it will build closer relationships between Government and business.

"Business has been urging the Government to take heed of its concerns about the lack of clarity around policy and reform, in particular in the area of employment relations. Today's announcement is a positive step in signalling the Government's commitment to do so," he said.